Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar have helped Detroit stay afloat in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Over the course of the 2013-14 season, the Detroit Red Wings have been an example of mediocrity wrapped in an enigma—one moment red hot and the next ice cold.
They are currently in fifth place in the Atlantic Division and sit just one regulation-overtime win behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Injuries have taken there toll, as the Wings are currently missing the likes of Pavel Datsyuk, Daniel Alfredsson, Johan Franzen and Jonathan Ericsson. To make matters worse, Jimmy Howard left midway through Monday night’s game against the St. Louis Blues with a lower-body injury.
Looking at the big picture, Detroit has a long way to go, and it’s hard to imagine things getting any easier any time soon. On a positive note, they’ve found ways to remain competitive on the shoulders of young prospects taking advantage of their opportunities.
Players like Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco have contributed, keeping the team afloat until its stars return.
Although just 3-4-1 in 2014, Detroit will have the Olympic break to get healthy and perhaps provide much-needed rest before making a push.
As for now, the Wings will have to rely on those that are currently on the ice and ready to go. These players help make up our list of the hottest and coldest Detroit Red Wings right now.
Tomas Tatar has been a big contributor for Detroit this season.
Fourth on the team with 10 goals, Tomas Tatar has been the biggest boost for Detroit’s offense this season.
Now that injuries have secured him an everyday roster spot, the 23-year-old Slovak has been the driving force for secondary scoring on a team that has amassed just 14 goals in eight contests in January.
Although he’s pointless in his last three games, the team itself has scored just three goals in its last four. Although he did not score in regulation, Tatar netted the game-winning shootout goal in the Wings' controversial 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.
Even when he doesn’t show up on the scoresheet, Tatar is a ball of energy that never ceases to make a play. He has six points in his last 11 games and is sure to be a staple in Detroit’s lineup even when the regulars return from injury.
His 19 points are sixth on the club, and he's fifth in shots on goal with 85.
Todd Bertuzzi can't seem to get it going offensively.
Although he’s finally been healthy for the majority of a full season, Todd Bertuzzi has been disappointing thus far in the final year of his contract.
With just six goals and 11 points in 43 games, some of which saw him playing on Detroit’s top line, Bertuzzi hasn’t provided any hint of a consistent scoring touch. His minus-13 is worst on the team, and at this point, he may be a bigger part of the problem than the solution.
Bertuzzi averaged over 40 points in his first three full seasons with Detroit from 2009-2012, but injuries slowed him to just three points in seven games last season. This year, he had played alongside either Henrik Zetterberg or Pavel Datsyuk until injuries forced some unique line combinations.
Bertuzzi has just one goal and two points in his last 26 games and has graduated from ice cold to subzero of glacial proportions.
Bertuzzi’s lack of productivity may lead to reduced time as a whole, if not being a healthy scratch when the stars return. He’s been a good locker room guy and veteran presence over his time in Detroit, but there comes a time when the play on the ice speaks much louder.
Jimmy Howard was regaining confidence before suffering an injury Monday night.
Since the start of 2014, Jimmy Howard has been the primary reason Detroit has remained in the playoff picture.
Over the course of his last seven starts, Howard has posted a 2.23 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage. The numbers are slightly skewed, as Howard was pulled in a 4-1 loss to San Jose where the entire team played poorly, and he was pulled midway through Monday’s game against St. Louis with a knee injury.
In consecutive starts against the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers, Howard made a combined 91 saves in a 3-1 win and 1-0 loss, respectively. He appeared to have turned things around only to, unfortunately, suffer an injury similar to one he dealt with in December.
The team’s lack of offense and the revolving door on defense have contributed to Howard’s issues throughout this season, and another injury only makes things more complicated for the team.
If Howard’s injury isn’t serious and he can return soon, then his stellar play has come at just the right time.
Gustav Nyquist has found a permanent spot on the NHL roster.
Gustav Nyquist scored his sixth goal of the season in Monday’s 4-1 loss to St. Louis, and hopefully for Detroit, it’s a sign of more to come.
The 24-year-old Swede has been in need of some bounces to go his way after posting just five points and a minus-three in his last 16 games. Overall, his 12 points in 24 games are attractive for a Detroit team starved for offense, but he has cooled down considerably after tallying four goals and seven points in his first eight games.
In recent games, he has played alongside Justin Abdelkader and Henrik Zetterberg, who still is not quite up to speed after missing nearly all of December with a herniated disc. Nyquist has been given the opportunity since being recalled from Grand Rapids in late November, and Detroit desperately needs him to hit his stride.
He has now hit the scoresheet in consecutive games with a goal and assist, and perhaps this is the start of another streak. While he may be listed as cold, it’s not to say he isn’t currently heating up.
Healthy or not, Henrik Zetterberg is among the best in the NHL.
Even after missing most of December with a herniated disc, Henrik Zetterberg continues to pile up the points—even when he isn’t 100 percent.
Detroit’s captain and leading scorer has 15 goals and 39 points in 38 games this season and added an assist on Detroit’s lone goal in Monday’s loss to St. Louis. He has three points in the last two games and six points in seven games in 2014.
With the intense pressure of being the team’s primary scoring threat with Pavel Datsyuk, Daniel Alfredsson and Johan Franzen all currently injured, Zetterberg has proved he’s among the league’s elite. While linemates have shuffled in and out, he continues to produce while making those around him better.
It’s safe to say that his scoring pace will increase when players return from injury, so it isn’t likely he’ll slow down any time soon. While the team certainly needs frantic help on offense, Zetterberg has brought his same work ethic every day, and it shows in the numbers.
Niklas Kronwall is Detroit's top defenseman, but he can still improve at both ends of the ice.
Although Niklas Kronwall scored the most controversial goal for Detroit in recent memory, it was his fifth of the season and first in 14 games. It also stands as his only point in his last eight contests.
As Detroit’s top defenseman and power-play point man, Kronwall is counted on to consistently move the puck and simply shoot it on net. Unfortunately, he’s totaled just nine shots in his last nine games, which simply won’t get the job done.
More disconcerting for the No. 1 blueliner is his minus-seven rating over his last 16 games. Of the 10 defensemen that have played for Detroit this season, only three of them have a positive plus/minus rating. Kronwall ranks second among them at plus-six.
On a positive note, Kronwall has totaled five goals and 29 points through 47 games, his same totals from last season through 48 games.
Detroit needs its top defenseman to make plays at both ends of the ice, and as Kronwall goes, so will the defense.
Glendening's grit has made him an asset on the penalty kill.
Luke Glendening has flown below the radar for the most part, but he’s certainly made the best of his opportunity in Detroit.
Glendening has just three assists in 24 games, but as a penalty-killer and energy guy, he’s contributing in the small ways that help a team succeed. His efforts have been recognized and rewarded with nearly double the ice time he received before December.
He did the same as a recruited walk-on at the University of Michigan. Michigan head coach Red Berenson spoke of Glendening to Ansar Khan of mlive.com:
He never led the team in scoring, but he was our leader on and off the ice. Now he’s showing that he can play pro hockey and now he’s in the NHL. He’s a good example for young kids that aren’t getting all the attention and aren’t draftable and aren’t this and aren’t that, but they really want a chance.
Glendening has seen a lot of time shorthanded, helping Detroit to the seventh-best penalty kill in the NHL. His speed and grit add to a lineup that can use a little of everything, which is sure to keep his name penciled in on the lineup card.
Kindl's decline from 2012-13 has hurt Detroit on the back end.
Jakub Kindl had a productive 2012-13 season, tying his career high for points (13) in 41 games. This season, he has 11 points through 47 games but is tied with Kyle Quincey at minus-11—worst among team defensemen.
This year, Detroit was hoping Kindl would take the next step and progress into a top-four defenseman, but the 26-year-old appears stuck in neutral. He averages just over 18 minutes of ice time per game and primarily skates with Brian Lashoff as part of the third defensive pairing.
Kindl has one goal on the year and has recorded just three assists over his last 27 games. Over that stretch, he has been a minus-seven and struggled to right the ship in his own zone. Five of his 10 assists this season have come on the power play, but he hasn't had one since Nov. 23 against Ottawa.
Kindl will continually get opportunities with the man advantage and could turn things around for both him and the club. Detroit doesn’t have too many options to improve its blue line; therefore, he will simply have to step up.
Smith's improvement over the last month has been gradual but noticeable.
Perhaps “hot” isn’t the proper adjective, but Brendan Smith is one of Detroit’s players who is certainly heating up.
Over his last 10 games Smith has contributed a goal, four assists and a plus-two rating, which is more than most Detroit defensemen can boast. He’s totaled seven shots in his last three games while averaging over 20 minutes of ice time.
With Jonathan Ericsson possibly returning from injury on Wednesday, any improvement on defense will be significant. His partner has varied from Kyle Quincey to Niklas Kronwall recently, and the change is likely a factor. Smith shared with Ansar Khan of mlive.com:
He’s so easy to play with. You’re playing with one of the best, so I just have to keep my game simple, get the puck in his hands and just play hard and play the same way I’ve been playing. He’ll definitely make it easier on me.
Smith getting back on track is a real good sign for the longevity of the team. The 24-year-old Ontario native is in his third season with Detroit and the first of a new two-year contract.
Daniel Cleary is a great leader, but he has struggled mightily on the ice.
Dan Cleary is struggling, and it is quite evident.
Through 48 games in 2012-13, he had nine goals, just one more than he has total points at the same mark this season. He has bounced between the third and fourth lines while seeing time on the power play but has simply been ineffective.
Injuries have slowed Cleary in the past, but he has been healthy all season, only missing one game as a healthy scratch.
Coach Mike Babcock is a huge supporter of Cleary and everything he brings to the table. He’s a great leader with tremendous veteran experience, made evident by the “A” he wears in Pavel Datsyuk’s absence.
It’s perfectly understandable why he remains a piece of the puzzle for Detroit, but on the ice, he hasn’t shown what Detroit expected when it re-signed him in September.
As it is a one-year deal, Cleary will become an unrestricted free agent after this season. With the influx of forwards that have already shown their capability at the NHL level, Cleary may be on his last leg with Detroit.